October 2015
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I'm not with Kim

By Katharhynn Heidelberg

Kim Davis, Rowan County, Ky., clerk, apparently does not understand either the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage or her job as a civil servant of secular government.

That didn’t stop her from repeatedly denying two gay men a marriage license, in defiance of court orders, and her supposed moral high ground didn’t prevent her from at last being jailed for contempt in September.

You see, the thrice-divorced Davis doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage and thinks that having to issue a license makes her part of something that is against her religious beliefs. Predictably (so, so very predictably), she is being hailed as a martyr.

“I’m with Kim,” rallies and social media campaigns followed Davis’ jailing, with many Republican presidential candidates weighing in with the predictable blather (a notable exception was the otherwise pander-o-holic Donald Trump).

Well, I’m not with Kim.

I don’t necessarily doubt that Davis sincerely believes homosexuality is a sin. Certainly, other officials have refused to perform their official duties on grounds of conscience — remember back in the days of home foreclosures, when various county sheriffs refused to serve eviction papers? Neither do I dispute that Davis has First Amendment rights.

But the logic that would hold Davis as a person oppressed for “standing up for her beliefs” fails.

Davis is a public servant of a secular government. Her refusal to perform her duties is about denying to others the rights she herself enjoys, and has enjoyed four times, if published reports about her number of marriages are to be believed. The county sheriffs, referenced above, declined service in order to protect people. Kim Davis denied service to force others to live in accordance with her beliefs, and then had the gall to claim her own rights were violated.

That is a profound difference, not a small one.

It is precisely why people should stop comparing Davis to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. – irrespective of what those civil-rights stalwarts might have thought of same-sex marriage. The comparison is not only ridiculous, but offensive.

Davis and her enablers need to first of all adopt a clear understanding of the United States Supreme Court ruling that requires state recognition of same-sex marriage. In Obergefell v. Hodges, the court was not called upon to define what is and is not biblical marriage.

The court was in effect called upon to determine whether states could deny to two people, based on the sex of both parties, the ability to enter into a legally binding marriage contract and enjoy the state-provided benefits thereof. The court’s majority, sensibly, said no; states cannot exclude from such legal contracts two people just because they are of the same sex.

Perhaps that should be written up on a banner and displayed within Davis’ line of vision at all times. State-issued marriage licenses have exactly beans to do with what county clerks think biblical marriage is, or with whether individual clerks like the idea of two men or two women getting hitched.

This isn’t complicated: Clerks can’t refuse to issue marriage licenses (an official duty) to same-sex couples and then claim “religious liberty” as basis for their refusal to perform a function of the state/secular government.

I assume Davis has issued plenty of marriage licenses to blasphemers, adulterers, thieves, liars, and possibly even murderers — all sinful behavior — and probably to non-virgins, as well. Where was her religious opposition then? Her defenders reason that same-sex couples could just head down the road for their licenses — a rationale that truly misses the point. The point is something called the L-A-W, which Davis violated every time she turned down a gay couple applying for a marriage license.

“Separate but equal” has been tried before, Kim. It doesn’t fly. Having separate schools for “colored children” and separate water fountains for “colored people” may have provided them with schools and water, but it was far from fair to bar them from public institutions and conveniences based on their race.

Here, the matter is also one of fundamental fairness, not the availability of service from other clerks who are either not bigots, or who may be, but understand what their job is.

Her attempt to get around complaints of discrimination by ultimately refusing to issue any marriage licenses is laughable for its transparency.

While I can sympathize with Davis to a degree — it is not comfortable to do professionally something with which you personally disagree — she is neither a victim, nor a martyr.

If this were truly about convictions and conscience, Davis would have followed her conscience by resigning. Living by your convictions does not mean freedom from the consequences of doing so. In this case, Davis following truly her heart would mean losing a secular job whose duties she finds too odious and burdensome to perform. Instead, she wants it both ways, and she wants the rest of us to applaud her.

Once again, Davis is an arm of the secular state, who in her official capacity has a duty to comply with secular law. Those duties involve issuing certain legal documents without first satisfying herself that the involved parties pass her personal morals test.

Conscience is individual, and Davis alone must answer to hers — not anyone else, by either not marrying, or by going elsewhere for a license. (More simply put: her beliefs are not gay couples’ problem.)

Were Davis truly committed to principle, she would have already left the job she now finds unconscionable. At a minimum, she would have allowed her deputy clerks to issue the licenses, which they did once she was jailed.

But this isn’t about conscience. It is about Davis doing her damnedest to make sure same-sex couples do not marry, and she is trying to use her official capacity to achieve this. Yet she simultaneously claims the state is oppressing her.

Ms. Davis, if you want to see an oppressor, kindly head to the nearest mirror. There, you can also take a gander at what someone on the wrong side of history looks like.

I’m not with Kim.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist in Montrose, Colo.


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